Interview with Griff Washburn: Musician and Climber, Among Other Things

How climbing inspires Griff Washburn’s music career. 

 

When I called him up for our interview, Griff Washburn was fishing.

“If I catch a fish, I’ll probably set the phone down for a minute and a half,” he said.

Griff Washburn, who performs under the name Goth Babe, is an electronic-indie musician. Washburn has over a million listeners from across the U.S., an impressive feat for someone who, until recently, made all his songs from the back of his camper. Now he makes them from his tiny house. When he’s not creating electronic indie music, he’s out climbing and enjoying the outdoors.

Washburn lives in Oregon with his dog Sadie. Together, often with Washburn’s partner Cate, they explore nearby crags and go surfing and snowboarding when the weather is good. Washburn documents his explorations for use in his stoke-inspiring music videos, several of which have garnered over 100,000 views on YouTube.

I caught up with Washburn to hear more about his climbing and music, and how the two intersect in his life.

 


 

When did you first get into climbing?

 I’d attempted to boulder when I lived in California, and was living in my car. Whenever the waves were bad, I would take a crash pad and some secondhand climbing shoes and go up to some place in Southern California. When I got to Oregon, I got a climbing membership at Portland Rock Gym, and started going all the time. I got into sport climbing and then trad climbing, and we [Griff and Cate] love just going out on a pretty day and hitting a multi-pitch somewhere. It’s a blast.

 

When did you get into music?

I got into music in high school. I was in a group of friends that would just do drum circles and play guitar and smoke weed, and I felt left out because I couldn’t play music. So one spring break I asked my dad to teach me a couple chords, and then it just kind of took off from there. It was a long journey of going through different genres and attempting blues and acoustic and finally getting into a punk band in high school. And then eventually electronic indie.

 

You’ve included climbing in a couple of your music videos. How do you see the intersection between music and climbing?

I think that when I get home from a really cool trip outside, I always feel super inspired. It’s really easy to be inspired when you’re dangling from a rock and you’re in a beautiful place. I think that goes for most of the sports that I’m involved with, but climbing out of all of them is definitely interesting, because you’re so exposed and the amount of adrenaline that you’re experiencing compared to the other sports. You get home and you’re like, woah, that was crazy. Then you just have some really cool stuff to write about.

 

What’s your favorite way to climb? 

Cate and I love to go multi-pitch climbing the most. We’re not really adrenaline junkies. So for us, a mellow multi-pitch or trad climb is always super fun because it just takes you to the most extreme places. We’ve also had some pretty gnarly situations with multi-pitch climbing in places like overseas and in Yosemite, we’ve just gotten ourselves into some sketchy situations. So we’ve since decided that we are fair weather, multi-pitch climbers. We’re okay with that.

Multi-pitch climbing at the Calanques in Marseille, France. Photo taken by Cate Mccoy.

I watched an interview where you mentioned getting stuck on a multi-pitch in France. Do you want to go into that a little bit?

With most climbers they’re like, oh, that happens to me every weekend, it’s fine. But we were in Marseille and we were climbing in the Calanques and it was beautiful, on the Mediterranean Sea. We’d done some sport climbing there the day before. On the second day we were there, we went up and did a multi-pitch climb. It was like nine pitches and I was following my girlfriend, who was pretty fresh to climbing at the time. I was trying to translate the European grades to US grades and was like, she’ll be fine with this, but it took us a lot longer than I thought to get to the top and the sun went down about mid-way. I think I had one headlight. It was a lot of pulling my partner up the climb. And yeah, it’s difficult when you can’t see where the next anchor or bolt is. I think the route split up into an old route with rusted bolts and then the newer route was to the left, we accidentally went the wrong way. We finally got to the top like an hour or two later, and then we were stuck on top of the route basically. It took us another five hours or so to find a way off. It sounds crazy, but the whole thing was made of gravel, so there were no trails. It was really tough. We finally found a way off and got home at 3 or 4 AM.

 

Do you have a favorite route you’ve climbed or a favorite crag you’ve climbed in? 

Some of the climbs in Smith Rock are probably my all-time favorites. It’s close, it’s home. Some of the multi-pitch are just so fun. I know there’s a really, really mellow one there called Voyage of the Cowdog. It’s only like three or four pitches, but super exposed on the last pitch. It just overlooks the whole Cascade Mountain range. It’s really beautiful.

 

What do you hope other climbers hear in your music and get out of your music?

I hope that people want to get outside when they listen to my music or go experience something. I’ve noticed that a lot of my fans have just a really great attitude and are normally just super stoked on life. So I think that’s really cool to see, and if any other people can get positivity and stoke from my music, then I will feel very accomplished.

Climbing at Smith Rock, OR. Photo taken by Levi Hoffbeck.

 

Do you have some specific songs of yours that you’d want to point out to the climbing community?

I feel like climbers could relate to the song “Car Camping” a lot because I feel like 20% of the climbing community lives out of their vehicle.

 

Do you have any particular climbing goals for the future?

I would love to get down to Yosemite again. But I think for us it’s just about doing really fun climbs rather than pushing our limits. And I think that that maybe is a great message for a lot of climbers to hear, because I feel like a lot of new climbers might feel down on themselves because they’re not getting this route or they’re not pushing themselves to the absolute limit and people around them are. For us, we have found the most fun in climbing when we’re not trying to just excel as fast as we can. Probably just more of that, just fun, mellow climbing that just helps us experience life.

 

Is there anything else you want to add or want readers to know?

It’s fire season right now so if you’re looking for a sweet time in fall, please do not make any campfires. Other than that, just stay stoked!

 

Check out Goth Babe’s latest release, “North Coast”, and all of his other music here. Also, some places to donate to help those affected by the wildfires are the Oregon Community Foundation and the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

 

Feature image: Climbing at Smith Rock, OR. Photo taken by Levi Hoffbeck. 


 

 

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  • Madeline Taub is a freelance writer and climber based in Washington, D.C.

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